Team Bitter End Making Headlines

From the July Issue of Rhode Island Monthly: Sailing can be a bit of a boys’ club. Just ask the ladies of Team Bitter End, who became the first all-female youth team — and one of only a handful of all-female teams in the race’s history — to complete the Newport Bermuda Race when they crossed the finish line at St. David’s Lighthouse on June 20.

The team includes eight students and recent graduates from Rhode Island high schools, including seven from the Lincoln School in Providence — Elizabeth Gardner, Gigi Fischer, Phoebe Lee, Olivia Vincent, Callie Dawson, Sophia Comiskey and Milla Clarke. Sarah Wilme, a 20-year-old Portsmouth High School graduate and current boat-building student at IYRS School of Technology and Trades in Newport, also participated in the history-making feat.

An all-female coaching staff led by Volvo Ocean Race competitor Libby Greenhalgh assisted the team. Maya Hoffman, Allie Surrette and Katie Zimmerman also joined the coaching staff before the twelve-person crew set sail from Newport last month.

The idea started in Bristol, where Wilme and the Lincoln School students met while participating in the Collegiate Offshore Sailing Circuit last summer. As the season drew to a close, the students began looking for more opportunities to continue sailing together.

“Eventually, we were at dinner trying to figure out what was next after what was supposed to be our end-of-season race was canceled. We were just joking about doing Newport to Bermuda. And then somehow we figured it out,” says Fischer, who spoke to Rhode Island Monthly with two other crew members from the cabin of their boat while they prepped for the return journey from Bermuda last Friday, June 24.

The Newport Bermuda Race, which kicked off on Friday, June 17, is the world’s oldest regularly scheduled ocean race. Crews travel 635 miles from Narragansett Bay to the coast of Bermuda, battling rough weather and navigational challenges along the way. It’s one of only two regular races completed mostly out-of-sight of land, presenting an additional obstacle for even the most experienced sailors. This year, that danger became evident on the third day of the race, when a New Jersey man and race veteran died after falling off his boat.

For full story, go to the link at Rhode Island Monthly.